WASHINGTON -- It was at a party on the White House lawn last Thursday night that Bill Clinton heard a chant that may have surprised even him.
"Four more years!" the crowd roared. "Four more years!"
The party was for members of the Irish-American community and for business people considering investing in Northern Ireland.
And lots of these people like Bill Clinton.
Clinton's policy toward Northern Ireland has been one of the great shining successes of his presidency. (The American economy has been another success, but try to get anybody to give him credit for that.)
Clinton has accomplished what no other American president ever came close to accomplishing: He helped bring about a halt in the bloodshed in that very bloody part of the world. (Ronald Reagan made Irish jokes; Bill Clinton made Irish peace.)
By taking the huge political risk of granting a visa to Gerry Adams, head of Sinn Fein, the Irish Republican Army's political wing, Clinton made possible the cease-fire that came about last year.
By allowing Adams to visit here in February 1994, Clinton showed the IRA he was willing to buck the British government, which considers Adams a terrorist, and gave Adams the stature to help persuade the IRA to trade its armed struggle for an unarmed struggle.
The cease-fire in Northern Ireland would not have been possible if all sides had not desired it. But Clinton's actions both public and private -- Nancy Soderberg, chief of staff of the National Security Council was a key player behind the scenes -- was the catalyst that made it possible.
A cease-fire is a long way from a lasting peace, but it makes peace possible and life livable.
And it has held so far. As a second step, the Clinton administration now wants U.S. firms to invest in Northern Ireland.
At a briefing for journalists at the White House last week, former Sen. George Mitchell, Clinton's chief adviser on Irish economic issues, explained why.
"Political stability and economic growth are inextricably linked," he said. "There is a direct and high correlation between unemployment and violence."
Mitchell made clear he was not proposing charity. He said private U.S. investment in Northern Ireland and in the bordering counties in the Republic of Ireland not only serve the national interests of all the nations involved, but also the economic interests of the investors.
Soderberg, while not minimizing the political differences that still exist between the different factions -- there are no formal peace talks, yet, for instance -- emphasized Clinton's continuing commitment to the region.
"The president has placed a high priority on engagement in Northern Ireland since the day he took office," she said. "He wishes to bring together all who renounce violence."
The British journalists present at the briefing raised the sticky issue of the "decommissioning" of arms. The British government insists that the IRA turn over its cache of weapons before it allows Sinn Fein to join in peace talks.
Sinn Fein, on the other hand, continues to link decommissioning to the removal of British troops and the disbanding of the Protestant police, a position Britain rejects.
Clinton supports decommissioning for all sides, saying he wants all paramilitary forces, both Catholic and Protestant, to "get rid of their weapons for good."
A British journalist asked Mitchell if he really expected American businesses to invest in a nation "where firearms are still so prevalent."
To which Mitchell dryly replied: "If U.S. investors could invest only where there are no firearms, they couldn't invest in the United States."
Bruce Morrison, former Democratic congressman from Connecticut and one of six private citizens who helped negotiate last year's cease-fire, attended the lawn party where Clinton was cheered.
"There is no president even close to Bill Clinton in what he has done to bring peace to Northern Ireland," Morrison said. "He took a huge political risk."
And what does Bill Clinton get out of it except the knowledge that he has done a good thing?
Well, there are 44 million Irish-Americans in this country. And they vote.
And four more years is definitely something Clinton has thought about.